Woodson High School may soon drop “W.T.” from the beginning of its name.
The Fairfax County School Board launched a formal process last week to consider renaming the school just outside Fairfax City, adding it to a growing list of local institutions and landmarks whose monikers have been reevaluated in recent years.
Crediting students with advocating for change, the school board has suggested adopting scholar Dr. Carter G. Woodson — the “Father of Black History” — as the school’s namesake in place of Wilbur Tucker Woodson, whose long tenure as Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent included opposition to desegregation.
“I truly believe it will be and can be a remarkable moment for our county, for a solemn reckoning of our county and our Commonwealth’s segregationist past and a reconciliation and a healing,” said Braddock District School Board Representative Megan McLaughlin, who introduced the proposal at a work session on Sept. 12.
The proposal was co-sponsored by six other school board members, including all three at-large members and three other members — Karl Frisch (Providence), Ricardy Anderson (Mason) and Laura Jane Cohen (Springfield) — who also represent portions of the Woodson area.
Now serving over 2,400 students, Woodson was the largest school in Fairfax County and Virginia when it originally opened its doors in fall 1962 — just over a year after W.T. Woodson retired in June 1961, according to FCPS.
Appointed superintendent from 1929 to 1961, Woodson oversaw FCPS as it evolved from a smattering of small schoolhouses into one of the state’s largest districts, growth fueled by the county’s population boom following World War II.
When he died in 1983, a Washington Post obituary described Woodson as “a gradualist” who believed Black and white students should be integrated over time, starting with first graders, rather than all at once.
However, in a 1959 letter to a school board member, Woodson called desegregating schools “most unfair” because it would force “social adjustments to which so many parents strongly object.” In addition to fearing “social mixing,” he warned integration would reduce political and financial support for public schools.
According to McLaughlin, concerns about Woodson High School’s name have cropped up in the past, but it wasn’t given the same priority as schools with clear nods to the Confederacy, like J.E.B. Stuart (now Justice High School), Robert E. Lee (renamed after Rep. John Lewis) and Mosby Woods (now Mosaic Elementary School).
That changed when an FCPS staff member found the 1959 letter while researching the system’s history with segregation, confirming that Woodson’s resistance to integration reflected his personal beliefs, not just adherence to state policy.
“The school board may consider a change in the name of an existing school or facility to ensure an inclusive, respectful learning environment,” McLaughlin told FFXnow. “It’s not inclusive when you have the name of an individual on a building that we now have a document that shows that he believed in the merits of segregation.”
Noting that several of her family members have attended Woodson, including her husband, brothers and children, McLaughlin stressed her desire to approach the renaming process with “humility,” even as she hopes the community will support Carter G. Woodson as an alternate name. Read More
Crews are planning to demolish a building on the campus of W.T. Woodson High School that was engulfed by flames earlier this year.
An hours-long fire consumed an administrative building facing Main Street in the early morning hours of Jan. 30. Part of the roof and an external wall collapsed, WTOP previously reported.
A spokesperson for Fairfax County Public Schools said the damage was “beyond repair” during the fire.
There is no word yet on what’s in store for the site once it is demolished. It’s unclear when demolition will begin, although county permits were processed in March.
“Plans will be submitted if there is to be a rebuild,” FCPS spokesperson Julie Moult wrote in a statement.
Fire investigators did not conclusively determine what caused the fire, which was accidental in nature and started in an office. The fire caused roughly $8.8 million in damages.
The building was used for ground maintenance and operations support, a locksmith, stock room, offices, a break room, and storage.
Houston is the place to be this week for the robotics community, and several Fairfax County students scored exclusive invitations.
Fairfax County Public Schools has three teams in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) World Championships, which kicked off today (Wednesday) at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas.
The annual event caps off months of work and competitions for high school students around the world who have designed, programmed and built industrial-sized robots that face off in sports-like games.
Representing Fairfax County among the 454 teams that qualified for the championships — most of them from the U.S. — are James Madison High School’s Warbots, the CAVEBOTICS from Woodson High School, and Oakton Cougar Robotics.
— Fairfax Schools 🌟 (@fcpsnews) April 20, 2022
Madison and Oakton have both participated in FIRST Robotics Competitions since 2001, but for the Vienna school, this year marks its first trip to the championships after the Warbots won the school’s first-ever district title on April 9, according to FCPS.
FCPS is part of the Chesapeake District, which includes teams from Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and West Virginia.
Oakton Cougar Robotics previously made the championships in 2016.
Woodson’s CAVEBOTICS are relatively new to the scene. The Fairfax-based school added the team to its cybersecurity and robotics club last year, and it has already grown to over 50 students, according to a Gofundme fundraiser that the team started to support its activities.
With robots costing $6,000 to $12,000 a year to build, fundraising is among the many skills that students learn from the FIRST competitions, along with welding, coding, engineering, and project management, Madison High School said in its post on the Warbots.
A nonprofit founded in 1989, FIRST aims to support science, technology, engineering, and math education through school-based robotics programs for students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
The championship will culminate with awards on Saturday (April 23). All of the contests and challenges, along with the closing ceremony, are being livestreamed on Twitch.